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When a pastor leaves a church, for any reason, such as taking a call to another church, retirement, leaving the ministry, what are the implications for the remaining staff at that church?  How do they continue doing ministry?  Do they now have a new "leader?"  Where do they look for direction?  If you have experienced that situation and could guide others going through it, I'd like to hear from you, and I think others would, too.  Are there resources, such as articles or books, that might inform that time of transition?  This topic came up at a recent meeting of the Staff Ministry Committee (SMC) and we thought we'd put this question on The Network.  To find out more about SMC, check us out at


"How" a Pastor Leaves may determine the way the rest of staff respond and influence their ability to continue in ministry.  If  a pastor  has prepared his staff for the departure - It can go on very smoothly.

If leadership is assigned that share's the pastor's same ministry direction, It is quite posslbe to remain intact as a ministry team.

Staff's ministry direction - still comes from their job description - Unless the leadership of the church should decide to renegotiate ministry responsibilities for staff members, and spell out whether the changes are  temporary or longer term.

A Sudden departrue by a pastor - is like a youth group canoe trip when someone "suddenly" leaves the canoe - other canoe-ists run in to  save stuff and people and more than likely crash and splash overboard themselves.

Three books I have found helpful in these situations are:  Leadership from the Inside out, by Kevin Harney, Escape from Church Inc, by E Glenn Wagner,  and Leading from the Second Chair  by Mike Bonem and Roger Patterson.

A fourth may be the "Boundaries" book by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. 

A Staff person's own agenda will also play a huge role in how the transition develops.  If we think we can "rush in" and save the day or have an idea that "now they will see what I can do" - could be more like diving into shallow water, you can get very hurt.  You may find yourself running after ego - or power, and be leaving the care of the flock to pursue your agenda,

Remember it is Christ's Church and His power, He is already the Savior, Let His Spirit guide the  response - and wade in slowly and reverently.  He knows His plans for you and His people.




Hi, Doug,

Thanks so much for responding!  Your insight is very helpful and covers a lot of the various situations - I love the water references you have sprinkled throughout.  Your comments regarding the staff person's own agenda are especially challenging and worth noting.  Thanks for the book suggestions, too.  I have a feeling that you are writing from personal experience.  And "Amen" to your reminder that it's Christ's Church!



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